CHICAGO (CN) - The Chicago Police Department refuses to disclose the records that would back up its claim that it is not operating a "black site," a news organization claims in court.
Guardian News & Media LLC requested public records from the department detailing the "interrogation procedures and practices" at its "secretive" Homan Square building that the news company says has come under recent scrutiny thanks to its series of articles "uncovering allegations of abuse" there.
Guardian's articles feature accounts from people who had been "involuntarily detained," like arrested NATO protestor Brian Jacob Church whom the Guardian quotes as saying, "when you go in, no one knows what happened to you."
According to Guardian's lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, those taken to Homan Square are kept out of official bookings, denied access to attorneys, shackled and physically abused.
Guardian says its request under the Freedom of Information Act sought records, photos and video of interviews and interrogations, the number of people detained and questioned, the duration of their stay, lawyer visit logs, and booking and arrest records.
When Chicago denied that request as "unduly burdensome," Guardian made a narrower request for electronic records kept after 2005, according to the complaint.
It allegedly made a second request for less-detailed records from years prior.
In addition to not having "received any public records" in response to the first request, Guardian says the department has "failed to respond in any way" to answer the second.
Lawyers and crime reporters told WBEZ that Homan Square has been "mischaracterized" in the Guardian articles, and that the media goes there regularly for tours, interviews and press conferences.
The police department has responded as well, stating that nothing out of the ordinary goes on at the facility, but that it is home to several undercover gang and drug units.
Lawyers also told WBEZ that the detention of suspects who have not been booked is unfortunate but not uncommon across Chicago, and that delays in meetings between suspects and their lawyers could happen anywhere as well.
A civil lawsuit filed in March against Chicago Police alleges that officers took three men from the front of a grocery store to the Homan Square facility where they were shackled while police tried to coerce information and false confessions from them.
The complaint says that "the conduct of law enforcement in a community is always a matter of significant public interest," and the conduct inside what the Guardian calls an "off-the-books interrogation compound" is still unknown.
Guardian wants a judge to compel production of the requested information. It is represented by Brendan Healey of Mandell Menkes and by the Manhattan firm Miller Korzenik Sommers.
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